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I have a very difficult time in seeing anything humans do as "different" that sets us apart from any other animals. Yes there are differences but only in degree. There is nothing humans do that an animal doesn't do in some way to a lesser extent. Humans are obviously more complex in many ways than most animals and at this time that complexity is unique, but I see no reason our level of complexity could not be evolved by other species, Neanderthals would seem to indicate it can happen.

 

And sharks would seem to indicate that it does not. They have existed nearly unchanged for 350 million years. Our form, homosapiens, accomplished everything in 300,000 years. Neanderthal ( if I am not mistaken ) existed in various forms for possibly 500,000 years. I don't think there is much evidence that they went beyond crude tools, and crude social structures.

 

It is important to remember that we have not 'invented' physics, or chemistry. The laws existed prior to us. So any species could have accomplished exactly what we have ... had they the cognitive ability to do so. But they found their niche, and that is as far as they got. Their evolution stopped 'cold'. And we have possibly as many as 7 billion species who existed prior to us ... many with up to hundreds of millions of years to achieve cognitive function equal or superior to ours ... and they did not.


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DH wrote:

 

This is very similar to the question of whether intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe. The answer to that is almost certainly yes. There is no way to tell, however, if the odds against are enormously large.

 

I don't think that is an accurate statement. We have a plethora of evidence to 'tell' in ...

 

1. our own fossil records ...

 

2. our observations of our solar system ...

 

3. our ( somewhat limited ) observations of the universe ...

 

4. our knowledge of chemistry and failed attempts to create life ...

 

5. and most notably, the deafening silence from SETI for 50 years.

 

They fully expected ( unless they were lying - I was listening to their words with rapt attention 50 years ago ) to detect a signal in the first few years ... with their very primitive ( by today's standards ) technological abilities.

 

The odds against ARE enormously large. It's a damn good thing there is so much real estate. And because of that I agree with you. The answer is almost certainly 'yes'.


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Regarding SETI:

 

Not too long ago Seth Shostak ( in defense of SETI's lack of success ) made a disingenuous and deliberately misleading statement. ( at least in my opinion )

 

He said that we have " ... carefully examined less than 1000 stars." Key word ... 'carefully'. We have examined far more than that. Millions more. By the way, that is under 20 per year. At his rate we could look for several hundred thousands of years without any expectation of stumbling across 'intelligent, radio-capable life'.

 

Additionally, he said that it was 'possible' that all those 'intelligent' species out there might be transmitting using much more sophisticated methods than we have the ability to detect. SUPER PHYSICS! Amusing that everyone else in the universe leaped from 'fire' to FTL technology .... I guess we are the stupid ones.

 

The only half-way intelligent thing he said in the article was that "Maybe we have it wrong. Maybe we need to re-think our assumptions. Maybe in another 40-50 years if we still haven't recieved a signal ...."

 

I'm thinking .... maybe the time is now, Seth.

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We could split the question (returning to first question of this thread).

Are we animals?

I think the answer is yes.

What makes us different from other animals? I am afraid nothing. that is not a bad thing, if you look at it twice. That makes us closer to nature. I suppose that the fact tha we are animals was not well received by ancient people (neither by modern people), so they invented culture, language, religion, civilization. Even today, return to nature is equal to seperation from civilization.

 

Ah, something else. Language does not serve only for communication. The main purpose of language is identification of people inside a community. In many cases, language is a barrier to communication. There are plenty of examples. You may find inside communities barriers made from special language. The one who don't know the language will remain out. (as in this forum for example). on the other hand, import a russian dog in L.A., and he will communicate without problem with his new friends.

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Michael wrote:

 

Ah, something else. Language does not serve only for communication. The main purpose of language is identification of people inside a community. In many cases, language is a barrier to communication. There are plenty of examples. You may find inside communities barriers made from special language. The one who don't know the language will remain out. (as in this forum for example). on the other hand, import a russian dog in L.A., and he will communicate without problem with his new friends.

 

Valid point. Language is to all practical purposes exclusionary. Whether human or animal. However,on your point about the russian dog ... he will communicate with other dogs just fine, because he uses 'dog' language. But he will be required to learn simple english words to understand what the human in L.A. is telling him. Interestingly, if he is highly motivated ... by hunger, love, etc. he will learn those words rapidly ...

 

All domesticated animals are 'bi-lingual'. Lol. In the case of your russian dog, he will be tri-lingual. I doubt he will ever forget the russian word for 'sit'.


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Speaking of language, there are many ways humans convey information beyond the written, or spoken word. Case in point would be the Shakira black and white video 'No'. Truly a masterpiece. She beautifully and eloquently conveys her heartbreak, strength, and hope across all language barriers.

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Then why do atheists ask the same question? Please keep religion out of this!

for the same reason why we believe morals.

 

 

That is a different question. Whether Neanderthals had the gift of gab is an open question. They do appear to have the same mutation to the FOXP2 that is in part responsible for our ability to speak. Suppose we die off, or suppose we simply never existed. Would some other animal eventually have evolve the same capabilities that we have? I suspect so. It did happen once, after all.

 

This is very similar to the question of whether intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe. The answer to that is almost certainly yes. There is no way to tell, however, if the odds against are enormously large.

 

The question on whether or not intelligent life exists elsewhere is an easy one to answer. i would say yes, and you could make some mathematical models and these would statistically say yes as well.

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for the same reason why we believe morals.

 

Which is..... ?

 

The question on whether or not intelligent life exists elsewhere is an easy one to answer. i would say yes, and you could make some mathematical models and these would statistically say yes as well.

And that would work, if you and DH were the only two people on Earth.

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Which is..... ?

 

Oh I don't suppose i should explain my self. Morals and such were initiated into our thought process by our religion, even those who proclaim themselves atheist still believe in these guidelines set by religious teachings. the simplest example would be to compare American morals with those of African tribes, or Indian morals. a removed example would be comparing what Americans eat compared to what Indians eat, then replicate that model to morals.

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Technically, I am not sure if the Drake Equation qualifies as 'mathematical model', but there is no question it is seriously flawed.

 

It assumes life will form from molecular combinations other than the ones that produce DNA. It also assumes all life will become radio-capable at some point.

 

There is a mountain of evidence that DNA can be created from the basic building blocks that exist here, and apparently across the visible universe. There is no evidence that something other than DNA exists, other than a mathematical 'probability'.

 

Homosapiens is a fortuitous accident. A lucky mutation, and extremely good timing. If the Drake Equation were to incorporate what we actually KNOW versus simply relying on what the mathematical 'models' say, we would find the potential number of intelligent species in our universe significantly lower. I think it's a safe bet we are the only intelligent life ( radio-capable ) in the MW.

 

Hope I am wrong.


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Oh I don't suppose i should explain my self. Morals and such were initiated into our thought process by our religion, even those who proclaim themselves atheist still believe in these guidelines set by religious teachings. the simplest example would be to compare American morals with those of African tribes, or Indian morals. a removed example would be comparing what Americans eat compared to what Indians eat, then replicate that model to morals.

 

I am non-theist. I have never taken another human's opinion as 'truth'. I will consider it, of course, but I also consider the 'source'. The possible agenda, or motivation of the person expressing the opinion, whether verbal, or in written form, or in any media.

 

Believers, in my experience are seemingly incapable of rational logic. They make all reality a 'belief system'. I have been told I am satan's child. I have been told I can have 'no' morality. These statements of 'fact' are nothing more than silly, ignorant opinions, and have no basis in reality. I hope this does not offend anyone.

 

I look at issues of morality from a standpoint of simple observation and logical conclusions.

 

We all exist. We all want to exist. ( I am generalizing here ) We all experience the human condition. We suffer. We feel joy. We have hopes.

 

My life is no more, or less important than any other. I don't see it as 'morality' to understand logically that it would be 'wrong' to do something to another that I would not want done to me.

 

The only logical exception to the 'do no harm' rule is the exchange of ideas. This is bound to cause us discomfort at times, but it is necessary.

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Oh I don't suppose i should explain my self. Morals and such were initiated into our thought process by our religion.

 

Zolar - This particular claim has been debunked more times than I can count. Morals and morality are a direct result of our evolution as pack animals... the fact that humans exist in troops. If anything, religion hijacked existing social norms. Religion did not, contrary to your claim above, initiate morality. If you'd like to argue otherwise, I'd be happy to point you in the direction of three or four threads where this exact topic has already been hashed out right here at SFN.

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I'd rather point to Michael Shermer's excellent book The Science of Good and Evil. Check a local library -- it's worth it.

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And sharks would seem to indicate that it does not. They have existed nearly unchanged for 350 million years. Our form, homosapiens, accomplished everything in 300,000 years. Neanderthal ( if I am not mistaken ) existed in various forms for possibly 500,000 years. I don't think there is much evidence that they went beyond crude tools, and crude social structures.

 

 

Point of fact. we did not "invent" all our complex social structures until a few thousand years ago, we were not much ahead of Neanderthals until after they become extinct. in fact the last of the Neanderthals were displaying the same behavior as us in distinctly different ways. We had an advantage but intelligence wasn't necessarily it.

 

It is important to remember that we have not 'invented' physics, or chemistry. The laws existed prior to us. So any species could have accomplished exactly what we have ... had they the cognitive ability to do so. But they found their niche, and that is as far as they got. Their evolution stopped 'cold'. And we have possibly as many as 7 billion species who existed prior to us ... many with up to hundreds of millions of years to achieve cognitive function equal or superior to ours ... and they did not.

 

No, you are assuming intelligence is somehow a goal the goal is survival, many animals have evolved unique ways of survival, just because they did it with out large brains and opposable thumbs doesn't mean they were some how late in the game or losers.

 

I don't think that is an accurate statement. We have a plethora of evidence to 'tell' in ...

 

1. our own fossil records ...

 

2. our observations of our solar system ...

 

3. our ( somewhat limited ) observations of the universe ...

 

4. our knowledge of chemistry and failed attempts to create life ...

 

5. and most notably, the deafening silence from SETI for 50 years.

 

They fully expected ( unless they were lying - I was listening to their words with rapt attention 50 years ago ) to detect a signal in the first few years ... with their very primitive ( by today's standards ) technological abilities.

 

Today, it is not exactly well known, lots of things that were assumed to be true 50 years ago have been found to be misleading. The most important is that listening in on a civilization equal to ours even from 4.5 light years away might very well be impossible. unless we intentionally beam a signal (and even then in some cases) all our signals are absorbed by the upper atmosphere and or interstellar dust and gases. the old idea that in the radio spectrum the earth would outshine the sun is false and very misleading. SETI, for the most part is looking for signals intentionally being sent out on a specific wave length that is not absorbed by interstellar dust and gases.

 

 

 

Not too long ago Seth Shostak ( in defense of SETI's lack of success ) made a disingenuous and deliberately misleading statement. ( at least in my opinion )

 

He said that we have " ... carefully examined less than 1000 stars." Key word ... 'carefully'. We have examined far more than that. Millions more. By the way, that is under 20 per year. At his rate we could look for several hundred thousands of years without any expectation of stumbling across 'intelligent, radio-capable life'.

 

Additionally, he said that it was 'possible' that all those 'intelligent' species out there might be transmitting using much more sophisticated methods than we have the ability to detect. SUPER PHYSICS! Amusing that everyone else in the universe leaped from 'fire' to FTL technology .... I guess we are the stupid ones.

 

The only half-way intelligent thing he said in the article was that "Maybe we have it wrong. Maybe we need to re-think our assumptions. Maybe in another 40-50 years if we still haven't recieved a signal ...."

 

I'm thinking .... maybe the time is now, Seth.

 

Possibly you need to look a little deeper into the problems of detecting radio signals form space. If indeed EM is the only way to communicate then we need to examine the ways we are doing it and yes detailed examinations are far more difficult than just listening in with a radio. If there are 1000 advanced civilization in our galaxy spaced more or less equally apart most would not be detectable unless they had existed for many thousands of years. Yes the light speed limit limits both us and them. If there was a civilization on the other side of the milky way that was 50,000 years ahead of us we would still not be able to detect them nor they us. Light speed is much like tracer fire, it works both ways.

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Moontanman wrote:

 

Point of fact. we did not "invent" all our complex social structures until a few thousand years ago, we were not much ahead of Neanderthals until after they become extinct. in fact the last of the Neanderthals were displaying the same behavior as us in distinctly different ways. We had an advantage but intelligence wasn't necessarily it.

 

Yes that is true. But irrelevant. You are ( I am afraid ) not looking at the big picture. Number 1. Life will make every effort to continue existing. Do you think neanderthal failed to notice they were going extinct? For whatever reason, they failed. And the conditons under which they existed were not appreciably different than homosapiens. Number 2. The neanderthal had an extra 200,000 years to get their act together. Number 3. I'm sorry to restate this, but at the time of homosapien's great migration out of Africa 50-60,000 years ago, Man was beating on drums, and tending goats. Those that stayed behind are still beating on drums and tending goats ... after 50,000 years. ( except for those we have introduced technology to ) Number 4. There is no 'we' in our present technological skill set. It was accomplished by .000000000001% ( approximately ) of homosapiens. The rest of us are just good at pulling the lever ... 99.99999999999% of homosapiens are clueless about how any of the things they use are made, or work. They are clueless about chemistry, or physics, or EM.

 

You wrote:

 

No, you are assuming intelligence is somehow a goal the goal is survival, many animals have evolved unique ways of survival, just because they did it with out large brains and opposable thumbs doesn't mean they were some how late in the game or losers.

 

I assume nothing of the kind. That would be your misinterpretation of the facts I have laid out. I must be at fault for not making myself clear. I am sorry. The goal is to survive. Period. Intelligenge is simply another 'tool'. Virtually every species that has existed has enjoyed existence far longer than us. Why would I consider them losers? They are incredibly successful. Intelligence is only valuable to us. Animals, and all other species couldn't care less. As far as 'late in the game', again you are assuming I think intelligence is the goal.

 

You wrote:

 

Today, it is not exactly well known, lots of things that were assumed to be true 50 years ago have been found to be misleading. The most important is that listening in on a civilization equal to ours even from 4.5 light years away might very well be impossible. unless we intentionally beam a signal (and even then in some cases) all our signals are absorbed by the upper atmosphere and or interstellar dust and gases. the old idea that in the radio spectrum the earth would outshine the sun is false and very misleading. SETI, for the most part is looking for signals intentionally being sent out on a specific wave length that is not absorbed by interstellar dust and gases.

 

The accurate word is 'incorrect'. And you are incorrect, too, I believe. Sorry. We are not looking for signals on a 'specific' wavelength. We are looking at about 500,000 wavelengths, soon to get boosted to around a billion. We have computers that can very effectively filter out the stars' radio output. They have no problem finding the 'needle in the haystack'. We have examined millions of stars, if not billions, and come up empty. When we aim our telescope at a given star group, there will either be a signal coming from that area, or there won't. There is no reason ( to my knowledge ) to linger for months on it. And that is what SETI knows too. Photons travel at 300,000 kps. If we can see a star, we can see any other photons that left at the same time. SETI has no intention of admitting the Drake Equation is screwed up. Frank Drake is the 'founder' of SETI, and very much active still. Seth lied for a reason. If you can't see it, I'm sorry.

 

You wrote:

 

Possibly you need to look a little deeper into the problems of detecting radio signals form space. If indeed EM is the only way to communicate then we need to examine the ways we are doing it and yes detailed examinations are far more difficult than just listening in with a radio. If there are 1000 advanced civilization in our galaxy spaced more or less equally apart most would not be detectable unless they had existed for many thousands of years. Yes the light speed limit limits both us and them. If there was a civilization on the other side of the milky way that was 50,000 years ahead of us we would still not be able to detect them nor they us. Light speed is much like tracer fire, it works both ways.

 

You must have memorized the Drake Equation. Another ridiculous assumption on Drake's part is that civilizations will 'kill themselves off'. So there will just be a tiny window of opportunity. Of course what kills off a species is ignorance. If conditions for survival become intolerable, the species either learns to adapt, or dies. Drake based his assumption on the failed societies of earth's history. What he ignored was that species ( and societies ) can be re-born. Over billions of years, if it happened once, it can ( and will ) happen again. Anyway, at the time he made this determination, we were in the middle of the 'cold war' where everyone who could was building bomb shelters and carrying out atomic bomb drills. ( DUCK AND COVER! ) All the ignorant people were quite certain that nuclear war was not only inevitable, but that it would very likely wipe all humanity off the face of the earth. Religion got very popular.

 

Of course, technology is not centrally held. We could suffer very serious damage from anything now and survive as a species. Asteroid, or atom bomb, and humanity would stumble a little but that is all. It is ridiculous to think we will have killed ourselves off in the next 50,000 years ... or the next 50 million. The only thing that can truly stop us is the sun exploding, or getting turned inside out by an impacter.

 

What you are failing to realize is that the numbers are beyond astronomical. Photons will bend around stars. If there is a signal to be had, we would detect it. And it is notable that Seth Shostak does not appear to share your view, or he might have mentioned it in the somewhat lengthy article I have referred to. I think it is on the SETI site. Instead, he deliberately made 'misleading' statements. He somehow forgot to mention the cursory search of millions of stars.

Edited by pywakit

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Mmm, morality and religion. Those I forgot to include on my list in post 11. Morality would be right under social, as some sort of morality is pretty much necessary for society and therefore for our success as a species. Other social species of course also have morality, though I'm fairly sure we can have much more detailed or abstract moral codes.

 

Religion, on the other hand, is probably unique to us. As I understand it, religion has a genetic basis, again related to society. To form anything more than tribes, we need the capability to accept commands from "invisible" or abstract entities more powerful than us (eg the king or a council), even if we have never seen them. Naturally, this can be extended to metaphysical entities as well. Another aspect that contributes to religion is our over-active theory of mind -- we tend to assign intent to events, even if there is no evident party responsible for it.

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""What differentiates man from other animals is perhaps feeling rather than reason. I have seen a cat reason more often than laugh or weep.

Perhaps it laughs or weeps within itself-but then perhaps within itself a crab solves equations of the second degree."

Miguel De Unamuno

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npts2020:

 

"Embrace those who claim to seek truth. Run from those who claim to have found it." Vaclav Havel's advice for children.

 

I really dislike sayings like this. Sounds great, but it is a false 'truth' in of itself. Irrational, and illogical. So what if the claim of 'found truth' is a valid one? You will never know that 'truth' or any other because you will have run away before giving the claimant an opportunity to prove his/her case.

 

Galileo 'claimed' to have found 'truth'. I can see how 'running away' would have been sound advice. I guess all his peers must have been fans of Havel ....

 

??????

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Galileo sought the truth, that is why he found one. Were his opponents seeking the truth? They certainly claimed to know it.

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Galileo sought the truth, that is why he found one. Were his opponents seeking the truth? They certainly claimed to know it.

 

 

 

Lol. The point being ... don't just run away. Examine the evidence first. Then decide. Galileo's critics saw no need to check his facts.

 

You are so funny ....

 

Just put a disclaiimer on Havel and we are fine.

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I really dislike sayings like this. Sounds great, but it is a false 'truth' in of itself. Irrational, and illogical. So what if the claim of 'found truth' is a valid one? You will never know that 'truth' or any other because you will have run away before giving the claimant an opportunity to prove his/her case.

 

Galileo 'claimed' to have found 'truth'. I can see how 'running away' would have been sound advice. I guess all his peers must have been fans of Havel ....

 

??????

 

In translation some of the meaning is changed. What the statement is really telling children is that they are smart enough to figure out their own truths and don't need somebody else to tell them what it is. I very much doubt Galileo would have said that his truth was immutable.

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In translation some of the meaning is changed. What the statement is really telling children is that they are smart enough to figure out their own truths and don't need somebody else to tell them what it is. I very much doubt Galileo would have said that his truth was immutable.

 

Could not agree more. And this is the problem with so many 'truisms'. The actual intended message is lost .... and it doesn't even require translation to a different language to lose it ...

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Language is widely regarded as unique a uniquely human capability.

 

<...>

 

Language is something more than speech. People who have sustained damage to various parts of the brain can for example find themselves able to speak but do so meaninglessly (Wernicke's aphasia) or speak words but can no longer form sentences (Broca's aphasia). Speech in turn is something more than the grunts and gestures that constitute animal communication.

 

It's rather likely that this perception will soon be overturned. 60 Minutes had a cool special this evening regarding Elephant language. It's hard to deny the language aspects of what they do, unless you are trying to affirm a preconception.

 

Watch for yourself: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6050249n

 

 

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/01/01/60minutes/main6045121.shtml

Elephants communicate in a complicated, sophisticated language that scientists are trying to decipher and compile into the world's first elephant dictionary.

 

<...>

 

Back in 2000, Turkalo filmed the death of a baby, and the traumatized cries of the other elephants. The elephants kept poking the body, over and over, frantically trying to coax the baby back to life. The elephants formed a procession that filed past the body.

 

"They'd feel it or they'd smell it. And then they'd vocalize," she explained. "It was like a funeral procession that went on three or four days."

 

"They seem to recognize death, and it upsets them. It sort of brought home how emotional these animals are," she added.

 

But it turns out that these vocalizations are just a small fraction of the sounds elephants make. Until a few years ago, scientists had no idea that most of what elephants are saying can't be heard by the human ear.

 

"The base of their vocalization is infrasonic. In other words, the frequency on which their call is built is below what we can hear," Peter Wrege explained.

 

The elephants use those low sounds to find one another in the dense forests where they spend most of their time. "Elephants are using very low frequencies in their vocalizations which travel far," Wrege said.

 

<...>

 

 

But to figure out what the calls mean, the Cornell team spends more time looking than listening. Using computer-generated spectrograms, they can see the low-frequency sounds.

 

"And what does this visualization tell us?" Simon asked Peter Wrege.

 

"It tells us that there's incredible complexity. Many of their calls are actually similar in some ways to human speech," he explained.

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It's rather likely that this perception will soon be overturned. 60 Minutes had a cool special this evening regarding Elephant language. It's hard to deny the language aspects of what they do, unless you are trying to affirm a preconception.

 

Watch for yourself: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6050249n

 

 

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/01/01/60minutes/main6045121.shtml

Elephants communicate in a complicated, sophisticated language that scientists are trying to decipher and compile into the world's first elephant dictionary.

 

<...>

 

Back in 2000, Turkalo filmed the death of a baby, and the traumatized cries of the other elephants. The elephants kept poking the body, over and over, frantically trying to coax the baby back to life. The elephants formed a procession that filed past the body.

 

"They'd feel it or they'd smell it. And then they'd vocalize," she explained. "It was like a funeral procession that went on three or four days."

 

"They seem to recognize death, and it upsets them. It sort of brought home how emotional these animals are," she added.

 

But it turns out that these vocalizations are just a small fraction of the sounds elephants make. Until a few years ago, scientists had no idea that most of what elephants are saying can't be heard by the human ear.

 

"The base of their vocalization is infrasonic. In other words, the frequency on which their call is built is below what we can hear," Peter Wrege explained.

 

The elephants use those low sounds to find one another in the dense forests where they spend most of their time. "Elephants are using very low frequencies in their vocalizations which travel far," Wrege said.

 

<...>

 

 

But to figure out what the calls mean, the Cornell team spends more time looking than listening. Using computer-generated spectrograms, they can see the low-frequency sounds.

 

"And what does this visualization tell us?" Simon asked Peter Wrege.

 

"It tells us that there's incredible complexity. Many of their calls are actually similar in some ways to human speech," he explained.

 

Good post.

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I think what has made man so dominant is the ability to lay out plans that cross generations. We change the world for long term human occupation. And long term is much longer than any individual. There are insect populations such as ants, bees, and termites that set up colonies that exist longer than individuals. Humans move out beyond their colonies to remove threats. The insects do not. They deal with threats as they occur.

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